Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Birthday Cake and Bears

from Pinterest

Last night's dream:

The cake was the most important thing. I had to get the cake for my 16-year-old daughter's birthday. Some other mom had ordered it for us, insisting there had to be a fancy cake and a party when, really, our lives were unraveling. This other mom had planned everything--picked a date and a time and sent out invitations. My daughters and I were between houses, halfway moved, not sure where to sleep and what belongings were where. A party seemed impossible. 

The cake was from a special bakery in an L.A. neighborhood I'd never been to. Some inner city suburb, or it's own separate town within the city. It had an interesting name I've been trying all morning to remember. Hidalgo. Trivalgo. Something pleasant and slightly exotic. I looked it up on the map on my phone. Oh. There. It wasn't far. We drove over a huge bridge, a friend and I, to get there. There was a taxi stand and an information kiosk at the bridge. I didn't quite remember the name of the bakery, even though the other mother had told me twice. Dark something. Or something Black. I looked up bakeries on my iPhone. Dark Orpheus was the name of one of the bakeries, so I asked the information guy where it was. Walk through the canyon, the guy said. It's so beautiful. So we left my car parked near the bridge and set out. 

The canyon was deep and lined with fallen leaves. The walls of the canyon were pocked with small caves. There was bear scat on the trail.  By now, my younger daughter (not the birthday girl) had joined my friend and me, and so I had to worry, not just for my friend and me, but for my daughter too. I knew a bear would find us. At the very end of the the canyon, we had to scale a rock wall to get out. The hand and foot holds were easy, but we had to climb past a deep cave. The bear came roaring out of the cave just as I was near the top of the rocks. My friend covered himself in leaves and the bear tore past him. Run, I yelled. Shouldn't I play dead? he asked. Run, I yelled again, and he got to his feet, the leaves sticking to him so that he looked like a person made of leaves. My daughter was far behind. I turned and could see her blond ponytail bobbing as she took a steeper part of the canyon wall at a run, charging to the top like a super-hero. The bear didn't chase us.

There was something somber about the bakery. The wait staff wore black t-shirts and black pants and black bow ties. I couldn't remember the name of the mother who ordered the cake, so I asked if they had a birthday cake with my daughter's name on it. They did. It was tall with a hard shell of dark chocolate icing. It was elegantly decorated, her name written in a swirling script.  But we didn't want to carry the cake all the way back to the car, so I went to get the car, but there was some kind of problem, and now it was getting late. The bakery might be closed when we got back, so I took a taxi and had the taxi driver call them and plead, all the while I was getting texts from my friend to hurry. They wouldn't give the cake to anyone but me. 

I made it. But no one had money for the taxi back, so we walked, marveling at the city. There were many ornate tall buildings and terrazzo sidewalks. We cut through the lobby of a classic cinema, balancing the cake in its box while we admired the gold mortar between the dark granite blocks of the smooth and sparkling walls. We have to come back here, we said.

But now had to get to the party. But where was the party? New house? Old house? Would my daughter's father come? He'd said he would, but we knew maybe he wouldn't. Should some of us go to one house and the rest to the other house in case some guests showed up at the wrong place?

Somehow the party happened. People seemed to have a nice time. The house looked good. There were patters of food shining in the candlelight. My ex-husband was there. He and I spoke. Some mystery was revealed, but this morning I have no idea what it was. And I never got a piece of that cake.


I'm always grateful for an elaborate dream. And even though I'm often scared when I dream of bears, this bear incident resolved itself rather easily, even though I know that in real life a person can't outrun a bear. 
I Googled the name of the bakery. You never know. There's a restaurant called Orpheus New Orleans Cuisine. It's in New Zealand. 
Interesting that there is still some processing of the divorce and mothering of teen-agers. But even that felt like a welcome respite from the current political reality.
What have you been dreaming about?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

View of the mountains in  Las Vegas
Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone.
I hope your Thanksgiving  was full of gratitude, good food, and love.
I'm still roaming around, experiencing all of the above.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Trump Victory Tour a.k.a. Thanksgiving

Every place I visit in the next few days, it's quite likely there will be Trump voters present.

Yesterday I drove for 6 and a half hours at a top speed of 30 miles per hour.

Today traffic moved faster. The desert glittered with years of litter.  A couple of the roadsigns were pocked with bullet holes.

I hope Thanksgiving dinner is utterly and completely delicious.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Art of Josephina Aguilar

I'm back from Mexico, back from Day of the Dead, shuffling through life like a zombie. I've been sick with a bad cold since my return, and I have one of those Samsung washing machines that's trying to kill me. Oh, and Trump won the election. Well, not really. He won the electoral college vote and some say he's going to be president. Just typing those words turns my stomach.

I'm going to keep posting about art, theatre and literature here.

 Josephina lives and works in the modest family compound in Ocatlan, Mexico. She and her siblings learned from their mother and Josephina has taught her own children to be ceramic artists too. Josephina is blind now due to the complications of diabetes, but continues to work with just a bit of help from one of her daughters. I saw her build an entire figure using three basic tools--an agave spine, a piece of metal, and sort of ceramic hammer/roller she made herself.

This photo and the one below were taken by my friend Linda Kane

I brought this one home with me.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dia de Los Muertos: the fiesta in the cemetary big city style

"Tell the taxi driver Pantheon General," Jane said, pronouncing the name of the cemetery in Spanish. "Tell him tercero porta." She warned us that he might not be able to drive up to the third entrance, so get out wherever he left us and find the third entrance on foot. Luckily, I went in the same taxi with Jane or I would have been arguing in my almost nonexistent Spanish with a taxi driver. No, no, not the carnival, general. Pantheon general. All of the entrances to the huge cemetery were masked by a blocks-long carnival. Tilt-a-Whirl, shooting galleries, go fish, every junk food concession imaginable. For blocks. And blocks.  The Pantheon General was the urban equivalent of our previous night's visit to a village cemetery. Only this night we went to the party at Jane's husband's grave. There was beer and mescal, tamales, a hired trio if musicians and scores of friends come to pay their respects. 

Oh, by the way, there was a base player. 

The next day we went back to the Pantheon General  to tidy up, and to clean (there are water spigots every 30 feet or so) and adorn the graves of friends of Jane's as well as the grave of an unknown gringa adopted years ago by Jane and her husband. 

The simple mounds of dirt are few and far between at Pantheon General. The graves are, at a minimum covered with stone or or tile. Some are shielded from the sun by roofs or canopies; others have small enclosures complete with benches. There are flowers everywhere. It's hard to fathom that Mexico can grow enough flowers to decorate the graves of all the dearly departed. As we were leaving, people continued to stream in, arms laden. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dia de Los Muertos: the fiesta in the cemetery

The Santa Maria Cemetery in Atzompa, Oaxaca

I imagined what it would be like. I didn't come close. 

The festive atmosphere began as we walked through the streets at 1:30 in the morning. Food vendors cooking up hot meals. Men with boxes of candy and chewing gum working the crowd. We could hear the music blasting happy tunes. Not ranchero, not banda, but something polka-like. The band was from the neighboring state of Chiapas, I was told. An accordion, a couple of electric guitars, drums, singing. As we passed through the gates of the cemetery, a couple was dancing arm in arm.

Townspeople poured through the entrance, arms full of marigolds, cockscomb, gladiolas, blankets, babies, pots of tamales, tall candles. The graves had been cleaned and readied; some were already completely decked out with flowers in vases or simply mounded over the graves. Candles were everywhere. Fruits and vegetables were laid out for the returning spirits. Drinks were poured for them. Some people were wound into blankets sleeping next to, on even atop the mounds of earth, under which lay their loved ones. Families brought chairs and settled in. Food was passed around. There were smiles and laughter and conversation while the band played on.

It was comfortable enough to be a norte americana there to observe rather than participate. Stepping along the winding narrow paths on uneven terrain between the graves amidst tall lighted  candles and the crowds was challenging. Señora, a woman called, standing up from her little wooden chair to point my way. The people seemed accustomed to visitors, maybe even proud of the beauty and willing to share it.

I've never felt comfortable visiting my father or anyone else in a cemetery. It feels sad. It feels deserted. Pouring out a beer or a shot of scotch and laying out a pack of Chesterfields, I'm sure would be frowned upon. Lighted candles would probably require a permit from the fire marshall, and amplified music would, no doubt, cause nothing short of scandal. But I think that if I lived in my hometown after seeing what I saw last night, it's quite likely that I'd be having martinis in the cemetery after my mother's ashes are returned from the University of Iowa Medical School. There'd be hummingbird feeders, candies, cookies, cake, and orchids. 

The Art of Irma Blanco

We've driven through the countryside to various artists' studios outside Oaxaca. Cornfields line the road and it looks like a poorer version of Iowa. We arrive in a village that looks nothing at all like an small Iowa town. The church is topped with domes instead of a towering spire. The streets are cobblestones or dust. The walls of the houses are brightly painted and often graffitied. Curb appeal is an unknown concept. Lawns do not exist. But when you are invited in through the formidable gate and enter the home studio of an artist, it's like that moment when the Wizard of Oz changes from black and white to color.

Irma Blanco, 2nd generation ceramic artist.

This piece was created before our eyes, hand built in 15 minutes or so. The raw black clay transforms to the color below after firing.

Irma specializes in these elaborate creations as well as whimsical smaller pieces.